Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese has rapped Kwekwe magistrate Letwin Rwodzi for passing an inappropriate sentence while trivialising the seriousness of stocktheft.
Rwodzi presided over case 1320/07 in which 70-year-old Noah Moyana was convicted of stealing a heifer and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment wholly suspended for five years.
Justice Makonese said in a strongly worded review of the matter that the sentence was too lenient and trivialised the matter which was viewed seriously by the courts and the Legislature.
“I am of the view that the sentence of three months wholly suspended for five years trivialises the offence as it is wholly inappropriate. If the learned magistrate was swayed by the advanced age of the accused, she should have imposed a substantial prison sentence on condition accused performed community service,” reads review HCAR 469/12 of March 5.
Rwodzi passed the sentence after Moyana’s lawyer James Magodora submitted in mitigation that Moyana had no intention of stealing the heifer, but had found the beast trapped in a snare and merely finished it off.
Justice Makonese blamed Rwodzi for accepting this defence without interrogating the special circumstances which Moyana wanted the courts to consider.
“I have considered that the State in this case appeared to have conceded special circumstances without testing the truthfulness of the accused defence. If the defence version had been put under scrutiny the special circumstances alluded to would have been blown away. I am not at all convinced there exist special circumstances in this case,” the judge said.
“The learned magistrate accepted the defence and the State’s concession that there existed special circumstances without a careful examination of the circumstances surrounding this case. This the courts must not do.”
After citing the failures by the lower court, the judge refused to endorse the proceedings saying they were not conducted in accordance with the law.
“The offence is viewed seriously by the courts and the Legislature. I am, therefore, unable to certify the proceedings as being in accordance with real and substantial justice. I, therefore, withhold my certificate,” the judge said.